Jusuf Nurkic

Pincus’ Latest: Pacers, Mavs, Cavs, Blazers, Hawks, Avdija

As they weigh their options on the trade market in the next few weeks, the Pacers will be seeking shooting and players who fit head coach Rick Carlisle‘s system, sources tell Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report.

As Pincus observes, this could make the Mavericks an intriguing trade partner for the Pacers. Reports have indicated that Dallas has interest in Myles Turner, and Carlisle may value some of his former players more than other teams would. According to Pincus, several rival executives had considered the Mavs the favorites to land Turner using a package that includes Dwight Powell as a salary-matching piece, plus either Jalen Brunson and/or Dorian Finney-Smith.

Turner’s health complicates matters, however. The Pacers’ big man is expected to be sidelined through the February 10 trade deadline due to a foot injury, which will likely temper enthusiasm among his potential suitors. Additionally, league sources tell Marc Stein (Twitter link) that the Mavericks have recently backed off their pursuit of Turner as their defense has moved into the NBA’s top five.

While Turner may no longer be a top target, it’s still possible the Mavericks will consider moving Brunson or Finney-Smith for a roster upgrade, especially if they’re concerned about their ability to sign either player this summer, when they’ll reach unrestricted free agency. According to Pincus, there’s a sense around the league that Finney-Smith probably won’t get more than the full mid-level exception, whereas Brunson is “believed by many” to be seeking a four-year, $80MM deal.

Here’s more from Pincus:

  • Rival teams don’t get the sense that the Cavaliers are making Isaac Okoro or Kevin Love readily available, Pincus says. That doesn’t mean that either player – especially Love – is untouchable, but it sounds like they’re not being actively shopped.
  • There’s an expectation that the Trail Blazers will pursue deals that help them shed a few million dollars in salary to get under the luxury tax line, according to Pincus, who suggests Robert Covington, Jusuf Nurkic, and even Larry Nance Jr. are among Portland’s potential trade candidates. The Blazers gave up a first-round pick for Nance last summer.
  • Some executives around the NBA believe the Hawks acquired a first-round pick from New York in the Cam Reddish trade in an effort to improve a potential offer for Sixers star Ben Simmons, writes Pincus. Philadelphia wasn’t interested in Reddish, Pincus adds.
  • Multiple teams have interest in Wizards forward Deni Avdija, per Pincus. If Washington looks to upgrade its roster, it’s safe to assume Avdija is someone potential trade partners will ask about.

And-Ones: Thomas, Goodwin, Nurkic, Herro, Hawks/Celtics Trade, Rivers, Carlisle

Maccabi Tel Aviv has targeted former NBA guard Khyri Thomas to improve its backcourt depth, Donatas Urbonas of Basketball News reports. Thomas, a 2018 second-round pick, played in Spain last month before suffering an injury. He saw action in five games with Houston last season and came off the bench in 34 games for Detroit during the previous two seasons.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Former NBA guard Archie Goodwin has signed with Budivelnyk Kyiv in the Ukraine, according to Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. Goodwin had been playing in France. Goodwin played four seasons in the NBA, most recently in 2016/17 for the Pelicans and Nets.
  • The Trail BlazersJusuf Nurkic and Heat‘s Tyler Herro each drew $25K fines for an altercation on Wednesday, NBA Communications tweets. They were both ejected in the final minute of Miami’s victory. Herro shoved Nurkic in the back after the Portland center knocked the guard to the floor on a screen. Nurkic retaliated with a shove to the face.
  • Could a blockbuster deal energize the inconsistent Hawks and Celtics? Sports Illustrated’s Michael Pina proposes a Jaylen Brown trade in which the Hawks would give up De’Andre Hunter, Kevin Huerter, Jalen Johnson and two unprotected first-round picks.
  • Nearly half of the league’s head coaches have entered the health and safety protocols this season. Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer talks to Philadelphia’s Doc Rivers and Indiana’s Rick Carlisle on how they interacted with their assistants during their absences.

Stein’s Latest: Simmons, Hawks, Ingles, Cavs, Blazers

Although it’s possible the Sixers will trade Ben Simmons before the February 10 deadline, their preferred scenario would be to convince him to rejoin the team and play as much of the rest of the season as possible, a source familiar with Philadelphia’s thinking tells veteran NBA reporter Marc Stein.

Trading Simmons in the next month for the best available package would improve the Sixers’ chances of competing in the short term, but the team fears that taking that route may mean squandering an opportunity to land a true complementary star for Joel Embiid, says Stein. Convincing Simmons to play the rest of this season would improve the club’s short-term outlook while also leaving the door open for Philadelphia to make an offseason play for a star, should someone like Damian Lillard or Bradley Beal become available.

One league source who spoke to Stein suggested keeping an eye on the Hawks as a potential suitor for Simmons. Atlanta badly needs to upgrade its defense and president of basketball operations Travis Schlenk said this week that he plans to be active at the trade deadline in an effort to improve his struggling squad (Twitter link via Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution).

The Hawks don’t have the sort of trade candidate who would appeal to the 76ers as the centerpiece of a Simmons trade, but have several young players and draft picks they could put on the table, as Stein observes.

Here’s more from Stein:

  • The Jazz considered the idea of trading Joe Ingles during the offseason, but decided against it due to concerns about how it would affect the team’s culture, says Stein. However, Danny Ainge has been hired by Utah since then and may be less reluctant to move Ingles if his expiring contract is necessary to land a defensive-minded wing.
  • The Cavaliers continue to seek more play-making after acquiring Rajon Rondo from the Lakers, per Stein. Cleveland has lost two key guards – Collin Sexton and Ricky Rubio – to season-ending injuries.
  • According to Stein, teams are keeping a close eye on how the Trail Blazers handle Damian Lillard‘s abdominal injury, since an extended absence for the star point guard would likely impact Portland’s approach at the trade deadline.
  • There has been an “undeniable uptick” in trade discussions around the NBA since the holidays, according to Stein, who identifies Myles Turner, Jerami Grant, Dennis Schröder, Eric Gordon, Terrence Ross, Buddy Hield, Marvin Bagley III, Robert Covington, and Jusuf Nurkic as some of the players considered league-wide to be this year’s most likely trade candidates.

COVID-19 Updates: Randle, Williams, Nurkic, Burke, Bradley

Knicks forward Julius Randle has exited the NBA’s health and safety protocols, the team announced today (via Twitter). Randle, who only entered the protocols last Thursday, will be listed as questionable for Tuesday night’s game vs. Indiana.

The Knicks were hit hard in December by COVID-19, but are in pretty decent shape for the time being. Nerlens Noel is the only player on the roster who is still in the protocols.

Here are more protocol-related updates from around the NBA:

  • Suns head coach Monty Williams has cleared the COVID-19 protocols and will return to the club for Tuesday’s game against New Orleans, sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Kevin Young, who temporarily replaced Williams as Phoenix’s head coach, will revert to his assistant role.
  • Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic broke the news on Monday that he had cleared the health and safety protocols and would be back in Portland’s starting lineup. He logged 26 minutes on Monday in his first game since December 21.
  • Mavericks guard Trey Burke took part in the team’s shootaround on Monday, a pretty good indication that he has exited the protocols, tweets Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News. Burke didn’t play on Monday, but could be back later this week.
  • Bulls center Tony Bradley apparently cleared the protocols on Monday, having been listed as out due to return to competition conditioning on the team’s injury report.

COVID-19 Updates: Suns, Blazers, Rockets, Wolves, More

Here are the latest health and safety protocols updates from around the NBA:

Entering the protocols:

  • Jae Crowder and Elfrid Payton have become the first two Suns players to enter the COVID-19 protocols, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).
  • The Trail Blazers‘ outbreak continues to grow, with Jusuf Nurkic and Cody Zeller among the players now in the protocols, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). Seven Portland players have been placed in the protocols since Friday.
  • Rockets guard Garrison Mathews became the second Houston guard to enter the protocols today, joining teammate D.J. Augustin, per Tim MacMahon of ESPN (Twitter link).
  • Timberwolves big man Naz Reid is now in the health and safety protocols, bringing Minnesota’s list of affected players up to eight, tweets Chris Hine of The Star Tribune.
  • The Thunder announced today that they’ve placed rookie guard Tre Mann in the protocols. Oklahoma City now has two players affected — Mann and Darius Bazley.

Exiting the protocols:

  • Point guard De’Aaron Fox returned to action on Sunday when the Kings hosted Memphis. Fox had been in the health and safety protocols since December 16.
  • A pair of TimberwolvesPatrick Beverley and Josh Okogie – are no longer in the health and safety protocols, tweets Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News. They’re both listed as questionable for Monday’s game vs. Boston.
  • Clippers forward Marcus Morris has cleared the health and safety protocols, though he remained inactive on Sunday as he goes through a reconditioning period, tweets Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.
  • Cavaliers wing RJ Nembhard was no longer listed on the team’s injury report on Sunday and played vs. Toronto, so he’s out of the protocols. Isaac Okoro has exited the protocols too, though he’s still working his way back, according to head coach J.B. Bickerstaff (Twitter link via Kelsey Russo of The Athletic).

Western Trade Rumors: Westbrook, Pelicans, Nuggets, Blazers, More

The Lakers have had internal conversations about the possibility of trading Russell Westbrook, league sources tell Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report. Westbrook hasn’t fit in as well with LeBron James and Anthony Davis this season as the team had hoped.

However, Fischer suggests that any deal involving Westbrook is unlikely. He’s earning $44.2MM, with a $47.1MM player option for 2022/23, and there simply aren’t many players around the NBA who are available and could be used for salary-matching that sort of figure.

Fischer notes that a Cavaliers package centered around Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio would work, but such a deal probably wouldn’t appeal to Cleveland and hasn’t been discussed by the two teams. The Lakers, meanwhile, likely wouldn’t have much interest in acquiring Rockets guard John Wall, whose salary is nearly identical to Westbrook’s.

As Fischer writes, Sixers star Ben Simmons is one player whose salary could make him a candidate to be moved in a trade for Westbrook, and a Monday report indicated the Lakers have interest in Simmons. But Westbrook isn’t on Philadelphia’s wish list and conversations between the 76ers and Lakers haven’t gotten very far, says Fischer.

Here are a few more trade rumors from around the Western Conference, via Fischer:

  • Despite their slow start, the Pelicans haven’t given up on the idea of vying for a spot in the play-in tournament and could be buyers at the trade deadline, according to Fischer, who says former lottery pick Jaxson Hayes is considered to be available via trade.
  • The Nuggets are seeking wing upgrades and may put JaMychal Green on the trade block, sources tell Bleacher Report.
  • Jusuf Nurkic and Robert Covington, who are both on expiring contracts, are viewed as perhaps the most obvious trade candidates for the Trail Blazers, but Larry Nance Jr. may also be a prime target for rival front offices, says Fischer.
  • The Rockets would like to create an opening on their 15-man roster to promote two-way player Garrison Mathews, Fischer writes. Houston has a number of veteran trade candidates on its squad, including Eric Gordon, Danuel House, D.J. Augustin, and Daniel Theis.
  • The Spurs have been “frequently linked” to Suns center Jalen Smith, who is on the trade block, according to Fischer. Phoenix has previously been reported to have interest in San Antonio forward Thaddeus Young.

Blazers Rumors: Lillard, Front Office, McCollum, Nurkic, Covington, More

Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard will become eligible for a two-year, $106MM extension during the 2022 offseason. That extension – which Lillard wants to lock in, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski – would begin in 2025/26 and would cover his age-35 and age-36 seasons.

Lillard and his agent need Portland’s next permanent general manager to sell team ownership on offering that super-max extension, according to Wojnarowski, who hears that the guard’s camp had concerns about Neil Olshey‘s willingness to recommend such an offer to Jody Allen. Chris Mannix of SI.com also hears that Olshey wasn’t sold on tacking two more years (at $51MM and $55MM) onto Lillard’s deal.

Although Lillard and his camp will be motivated to help the Blazers find a GM who is receptive to offering that extension, most of the top-level candidates who figure to draw interest from Portland aren’t enthusiastic about making that offer, says Wojnarowski. In fact, some of those potential candidates told Woj that they’d be more interested in the Blazers’ job if they could trade Lillard and rebuild, rather than extending the six-time All-Star.

According to Wojnarowski, Lillard’s camp is “privately selling the idea” of the Blazers trading some of their current players and continuing to build around Dame (on a new extension). However, candidates for the permanent general manager job in Portland believe they’ll need to sell themselves to team ownership, not to Lillard and his camp.

While it remains possible Lillard’s group will have some input in the GM choice, Wojnarowski suggests they’ve been “thwarted on several leverage plays” this year, including their preference for Jason Kidd as Terry Stotts‘ replacement and their desire to trade for Ben Simmons.

Here are several more rumors out of Portland:

  • The Blazers haven’t begun reaching out to potential candidates for the permanent GM job, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, who hears that there’s no concrete list of contenders yet beyond interim GM Joe Cronin. The organization is still deciding whether to hire a firm to research and recommend candidates, per Wojnarowski.
  • The Pelicans offered Jrue Holiday to Portland in 2020 in exchange for CJ McCollum and three first-round picks, according to Jason Quick of The Athletic. A deal involving McCollum remains possible, but the Blazers are considered more likely to move Jusuf Nurkic and/or Robert Covington, says Fischer, adding that the team is “presently known to be down on both players.”
  • Lillard has expressed interest since the 2020 offseason in a handful of defensively-minded wings, per Fischer. Besides Simmons, Lillard has also shown interest in playing with Jaylen Brown and Aaron Gordon, sources tell Bleacher Report.
  • According to Fischer, Lillard’s lower abdominal tendinopathy is an injury that has bothered him off and on for years. The All-NBA guard even considered surgery this past offseason to address the issue, Fischer adds.
  • There are several teams with interest in trading for Lillard, but three teams in that group told Wojnarowski they’d want to wait for the 31-year-old to request a trade before calling Portland, since the Blazers’ leverage would be reduced in that scenario. The Sixers have made an offer, but the Knicks haven’t, Wojnarowski adds. For his part, Lillard would have limited leverage to push for a specific landing spot if he asks out, since he still has three more years left on his current contract after 2021/22.
  • Multiple league sources with knowledge of the situation tell Fischer that some Blazers players this season have been frustrated with Chauncey Billups‘ “coaching demeanor,” as well as his offensive system. In the latest Hoop Collective podcast, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, Ohm Youngmisuk, and Ramona Shelburne discussed the fact that Billups’ tendency to call out players publicly may rub the current generation the wrong way.
  • There have been whispers that Blazers owner Jody Allen might decide to sell her stake in the Blazers following the NBA’s next television agreement, says Fischer. If that’s the plan, there will be even more pressure on the team to make sure its next front office hire and big roster moves are the right ones.

Blazers Notes: Lineups, Nance, Little, Powell

Since head coach Chauncey Billups criticized the team’s compete level on Sunday and suggested that lineup changes could be coming, the Trail Blazers have reeled off wins against Toronto and Chicago this week, pushing their record back up to .500 (8-8).

The Blazers didn’t make any changes to their starting lineup in those two games, but the team is leaning a little more on reserves Larry Nance Jr. and Nassir Little, who played more total minutes in the last two games than starters Jusuf Nurkic and Robert Covington.

When Nance and Little played the entire fourth quarter vs. Toronto on Monday while Nurkic and Covington sat on the bench, Billups was asked about the decision. As Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian tweets, the first-year coach said it was more about matchups vs. Toronto than an indication of imminent lineup changes. Still, it seems clear Nance and Little have earned bigger roles with their play so far.

Here’s more on the Blazers:

  • After averaging just 17.2 MPG and never playing more than 22 minutes in any of his first 11 games in Portland, Nance has averaged 22.9 MPG in his last five games. That’s a byproduct of the Blazers getting a better sense of how best to use him, writes Jason Quick of The Athletic. “When he came here I wasn’t sure if he was a four that could play five, or a five that could play some four,” Billups said. “Right now, I’m pretty confident that he is a five who could play four, too. But we are better served with him at that small-ball five.”
  • For his part, Nance said he’s glad his role has evolved organically rather than having it become an issue the team needed to focus on and figure out. “I think it’s a great thing that we didn’t have to sit down and have a pow-wow about, ‘What’s going on? How do we get Larry involved?'” Nance said, per Quick. “(Billups) knows I’m a guy who you just put me on the floor and I will figure it out. And I pride myself in not being a squeaky wheel.”
  • The Blazers’ game vs. the Raptors on Monday was a reminder that last season’s Norman Powell/Gary Trent Jr. swap is working out pretty well for both teams, as Eric Koreen of The Athletic writes. Powell has remained a highly efficient scorer in Portland this season, averaging 16.8 PPG on .494/.438/.818 shooting, while Trent has been a ball hawk on defense in Toronto, leading the NBA in total deflections and steals.
  • Powell signed a new five-year, $90MM deal with the Blazers during the offseason, but he’s determined not to get complacent after securing a life-changing payday. “I never really looked at the money as, like, (an) indicator of how good I’ve been,” Powell said on Monday, per Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. “It’s always been the expectations and goals that I’ve set out for myself … and can I get better? There’s no doubt the money will come if I keep doing those things, and it has, and I’m still hungry for more goals.”

Billups Expresses Frustration With Blazers’ Compete Level

The up-and-down Trail Blazers had perhaps their worst game of the season on Sunday in Denver, losing by 29 points to the Nuggets and falling to 6-8. While Portland was playing without star point guard Damian Lillard, Denver was missing Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr., and Will Barton.

Following the loss, Blazers coach Chauncey Billups expressed displeasure with his club’s compete level, as detailed in stories from Jason Quick of The Athletic and Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian.

“I’m confused,” Billups said. “I don’t think we came to compete in this game. I mean, this is a team that beat us in the playoffs last year. And we come out and don’t even compete in the first quarter. Kind of … a little disappointed in that. The effort. Just no fight. No fight.”

Asked about the possibility of making lineup or rotation adjustments to shake things up for the Blazers, Billups suggested that changes could be around the corner.

“It’s coming. That point is coming soon,” Billups said. “If we continue to play like that … because if you think about it, you keep playing that way, at some point I have to look at it and say something isn’t quite working. And then maybe think about shifting some things around.”

In Quick’s view, changes seem most likely to come at power forward and/or center, since Robert Covington and Jusuf Nurkic have been inconsistent so far this season, while bench players like Nassir Little, Larry Nance Jr., and Cody Zeller have provided more stability. Billups, who said earlier this month that Covington “could be better defensively,” stated on Sunday that he’s been happy with the effort he’s seeing from his reserves, including Anfernee Simons, Dennis Smith Jr., Little, and Nance.

“All of the second unit played as hard as we need them to play,” Billups said. “The first unit, they didn’t have it.”

The first-year head coach acknowledged that Portland had a busy schedule during the last week, playing four road games in six days. However, Billups didn’t view fatigue as a viable excuse for the team’s lack of effort.

“I just think there is no real reason to not have effort,” Billups said. “We’ve had a lot of games, so I can see being tired. … I can see if we come out and play our behinds off, but we just run out of gas. I can live with that. I don’t like losing like this. That game was over.”

Blazers Notes: Lillard, Nance, Nurkic, Billups

Despite plenty of speculation this offseason that Damian Lillard may request a trade from the Trail Blazers, the star point guard is still in Portland and indicated at the team’s Media Day on Monday that he remains committed to the franchise.

Lillard wanted to see signs from the front office that it was serious about competing for a title, and while the Blazers didn’t make a huge splash in free agency or on the trade market, the 31-year-old expressed enthusiasm about the team’s roster updates, as Jason Quick of The Athletic details.

“Obviously, at the end of last season I wanted to see our roster improve, I wanted us to have a better chance at winning,” Lillard said. “And we had our conversations throughout the summer about what that looked like and how we could take steps in that direction.

“… We’ve done some things that I like,” Lillard added, singling out the athleticism and versatility of newly-added big man Larry Nance Jr.. “I didn’t expect us to go out there and get Kevin Durant all the sudden. But I think the conversations we’ve had … I feel like it’s genuine that we are trying to move in the right direction and give our team a chance to actually go get another (title). That’s why I have faith — the fact that we’ve had real conversations and that’s what everyone’s intentions were.”

There was a sense that the Blazers might need to take a bigger swing – perhaps a trade involving CJ McCollum – in order to satisfy Lillard. However, as Quick writes, Lillard stressed that he didn’t want to see the team make a major move just for the sake of change and that he’s satisfied with the club taking smaller steps, as long as those steps are in the right direction.

“I think he knows we exhausted every opportunity to improve the roster through trade and free agency,” president of basketball operations Neil Olshey said. “And he knows we will continue to work on that throughout this early part of the season and up to the trade deadline like we always do.”

As for that persistent trade speculation surrounding Lillard, Olshey told reporters that the Blazers “will never be receptive of moving Dame,” according to Quick (Twitter link). The club may be willing to accommodate Lillard if he ever wants out of Portland, but that’s certainly not the case right now, per Olshey, who said the veteran guard is “fired up to be here.”

Here’s more on the Blazers:

  • In a conversation with Alex Kennedy of BasketballNews.com, Nance spoke about making the “really difficult” decision to ask the Cavaliers if they could accommodate a trade to a win-now team, as well as the role he believes he can play on a club like the Blazers. “I didn’t come out here (to lose),” Nance said. “I had a comfortable, cushy situation in Cleveland; I lived close to my family, I was happy and it was all good. I did not come out here to half-ass this thing. I’m all in, and that means going for it all. Last year, we saw a few teams come out of nowhere; the Hawks came out of nowhere, the Suns came out of nowhere. There were teams that surprised some people, and that’s fully what I’m planning on doing here.”
  • At the end of the 2020/21 season, Jusuf Nurkic expressed frustration with his role and the situation in Portland, but he sounded far more optimistic on Monday about the future, as Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian relays. Echoing comments he made earlier in the month, Nurkic said he’s pleased that head coach Chauncey Billups envisions him taking on an expanded role. “I’m glad somebody wants me to be a bigger part of the organization,” Nurkic said. “… I’m looking for a big year personally for me and the team.”
  • Billups spoke on Monday about how he intends to prioritize accountability in Portland this season and will call out players who aren’t performing at the level they should be. “I think it does two things,” the Blazers’ new head coach explained, per Casey Holdahl of TrailBlazers.com. “One, it let’s that guy understand and know that he has to be better. And two, it puts everybody else on notice. Nobody wants that, nobody wants to be the star of the tape the next day because you’ve blown five coverages. But it’s a respectful way to do everything and at the end of the day, it’s just coaching.”